Sunday, October 16, 2011

Hey! Supercommittee! Here's the Smart Plan to Save $7 Trillion, Create Jobs, Save Social Security


Hey! Supercommittee! Here’s the Smart Plan to Save $7 Trillion, Create Jobs, Save Social Security

Amer­ica is not broke. But Amer­ica does have bro­ken pri­or­i­ties.

Amer­i­cans are wak­ing up to this re­al­ity. That’s why they are oc­cu­py­ing Wall Street, that’s why they are protest­ing in Madi­son, Colum­bus, Lans­ing and other state cap­i­tals, that’s why thou­sands marched Sat­ur­day in Wash­ing­ton and other cities on be­half of “Jobs and Jus­tice.”

“We are in the midst of a major eco­nomic cri­sis. Mil­lions of Amer­i­cans are job­less, our schools and in­fra­struc­ture are un­der-re­sourced, our kids are being de­nied real ed­u­ca­tional op­por­tu­ni­ties and their fu­tures are at risk. It’s no won­der that peo­ple are frus­trated,” says Amer­i­can Fed­er­a­tion of Teach­ers pres­i­dent Randi Wein­garten, a fea­tured speaker at the Wash­ing­ton rally that hon­ored the so­cial and eco­nomic jus­tice legacy of the Rev. Mar­tin Luther King Jr. while high­light­ing the on­go­ing na­ture of the civil rights icon’s strug­gle. “The march and rally are about hit­ting the streets and tak­ing con­crete ac­tion to change our na­tion to once again be­come the place where every­one has a shot at the Amer­i­can dream.”

The peo­ple get it, and unions and ac­tivist groups such as Pro­gres­sive De­moc­rats of Amer­ica have been step­ping up this week­end with dozens of events to the high­light the the is­sues from coast to coast.

But will Con­gress?

The an­swer will come, at least in part from the Joint Se­lect Com­mit­tee on Deficit Re­duc­tion, which in com­ing weeks will have to de­cide whether to main­tain the bro­ken pri­or­i­ties that cre­ated the cur­rent mess—or to re­ject them and get the coun­try on track to­ward fis­cal sta­biliy and eco­nomic re­newal.

If the bi­par­ti­san com­mit­tee per­pet­u­ates the aus­ter­ity agenda that is being de­manded by the Re­publcans and con­ser­v­a­tive De­moc­rats—and too fre­quently ref­er­ences as a touch­stone by Pres­i­dent Obama—the United States will find it­self in a worst-case sce­na­tio that com­bines bur­den­some debts and stalled growth.

That does not have to be the case.

The Con­gres­sional Pro­gres­sive Cau­cus is propos­ing a com­pre­hen­sive plan to get the na­tion’s fis­cal house in order while as the same time sta­bi­liz­ing the cir­cum­stance of so­cial pro­grams and spurring job growth. The CPC plan out­lines $7 tril­lion in sav­ings for the fed­eral gov­ern­ment and, just as crit­i­cally, is pro­poses a new set of pri­or­i­ties that cre­ates jobs, sta­bi­lizes com­mu­ni­ties and strength­ens the so­cial-safety net.

“It’s way past time to talk big or think big— it’s time to gov­ern big and do what needs doing,” says CPC co-chair Raúl M. Gri­jalva, D-Ari­zona. “The Amer­i­can peo­ple are sick and tired of feel­ing too few in the gov­ern­ment are re­spon­sive to their needs. While Re­pub­li­cans dither about cut­ting cor­po­rate taxes and dis­man­tling Medicare, peo­ple are los­ing their homes, los­ing their jobs and los­ing their sav­ings through no fault of their own. As a gov­ern­ment, we need to look at our­selves and offer the coun­try so­lu­tions that match the scope of the prob­lems we face. Any­thing less is a waste of time.”

The CPC plan com­bines smart eco­nom­ics with a sound set of pri­or­i­ties.

How so?

It starts by find­ing the money the United States needs now—not just to bal­ance bud­gets but to make the right in­vest­ments for the fu­ture:

Step One: Allow the Bush-era tax cuts to ex­pire and scrap ir­re­spon­si­ble es­tate tax changes, sav­ing $3.95 tril­lion over the next decade.

Step One: En­gi­neer a re­spon­si­ble end to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, sav­ing $1.6 tril­lion.

Step Two: Enact a “Fair­ness in Tax­a­tion Act,” cre­at­ing a mil­lion­aire tax that gen­er­ates $872.5 bil­lion.

Step Three: Allow Medicare to ne­go­ti­ate drug prices with phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies, sav­ing $157.9 bil­lion.

The CPC plan out­lines nu­mer­ous other pro­pos­als for rais­ing rev­enues—in­clud­ing a fi­nan­cial trans­ac­tions tax on spec­u­la­tors deal­ing in “ex­otic fi­nan­cial prod­ucts”—and for using the sav­igs to as­sure the long-term sta­bil­ity of So­cial Se­cu­rity, Medicare and Med­ic­aid.

Per­haps most im­por­tantly, how­ever, the CPC plan rec­og­nizes the im­por­tance of job cre­ation as a deficit-re­duc­tion tool. “While Re­pub­li­can politi­cians are busy slash­ing good pay­ing Amer­i­can jobs from our econ­omy, the Pro­gres­sive Cau­cus con­tin­ues to put job cre­ation first with se­ri­ous pro­pos­als to re­build Amer­ica,” says CPC Co-Chair Keith El­li­son, D-Min­nesota. “The most ef­fec­tive way to re­duce the deficit is to put Amer­ica back to work. Cre­at­ing good jobs, mak­ing sure that every­one pays their fair share and pro­tect­ing So­cial Se­cu­rity Medicare and Med­ic­aid, are the best ways to en­sure that all Amer­i­cans are put on the path to pros­per­ity, not just the wealth­i­est one per­cent.”

To that end, the cau­cus sug­gests that the su­per­com­mit­tee should in­clude a job-cre­ation com­po­nent in its rec­om­men­da­tions. To do that, the CPC rec­om­mends fo­cus­ing on five ini­tia­tives:

1. Make it in Amer­ica Again“We must begin with a strat­egy to re­vive man­u­fac­tur­ing in the United States. This re­quires de­vel­op­ing some­thing every other in­dus­trial na­tion has—a na­tional plan for man­u­fac­tur­ing. When peo­ple see the words ‘Made in Amer­ica’ they know that they are get­ting the high­est qual­ity man­u­fac­tured goods money can buy. We need a pol­icy that re­opens our fac­to­ries and lets Amer­i­cans do what they do best: pro­duce the high­est qual­ity prod­ucts in the world.”

2. Re­build Amer­ica“With the cost of bor­row­ing near zero, the con­struc­tion in­dus­try flat on its back, and Amer­ica’s de­crepit in­fra­struc­ture not only a com­pet­i­tive bur­den, but a threat to lives and safety, there is no bet­ter time to launch a major ini­tia­tive to re­build Amer­ica. Cre­ate a na­tional in­vest­ment bank to lever­age pri­vate cap­i­tal and en­sure that major pro­jects are de­ter­mined by merit, not by po­lit­i­cal mus­cle. Re­build our half cen­tury old roads, bridges, locks and dams, while spurring cre­ation of the roads of the fu­ture by con­nect­ing and em­pow­er­ing our coun­try with fiber optic cable.”

3. Jobs for the Next Gen­er­a­tion“There is no short­age of work to be done in Amer­ica and no short­age of work­ers to do it. One in four teenagers are of­fi­cially un­em­ployed, in­clud­ing nearly half of young African Amer­i­cans and Lati­nos. We are wit­ness­ing a gen­er­a­tion of crushed hopes, and we are squan­der­ing the tal­ent of young Amer­i­cans. De­struc­tive cuts in pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion threaten Amer­ica’s eco­nomic suc­cess and we are now falling be­hind. We must in­crease fed­eral sup­port for hir­ing teach­ers as a cat­a­lyst for job cre­ation and im­me­di­ate and fu­ture eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment. We must in­vest in the finest pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion and job train­ing in the world, ed­u­ca­tion is no longer a guar­an­tee of work. Let us make the guar­an­tee of a good Amer­i­can job real for every young per­son. We should pro­vide di­rect em­ploy­ment in the pub­lic sec­tor and in­cen­tives for hir­ing in the non-profit sec­tor and pri­vate sec­tor. In ad­di­tion, the cau­cus sup­ports a ‘Train me and pay me’ pro­gram which would give stipends to work­ers and young peo­ple who are en­rolled in job train­ing pro­grams.”

4. Lead the Green In­dus­trial Rev­o­lu­tionA cen­ter­piece of our eco­nomic strat­egy must be to cre­ate good jobs now by cap­tur­ing the lead in the in­dus­trial rev­o­lu­tion that is sweep­ing the world—start­ing with clean en­ergy, elec­tric cars, and ef­fi­cient ap­pli­ances. We need to in­vest in re­search and in­no­va­tion so that Amer­ica re­mains on the cut­ting edge of global tech­nolo­gies. Pro­vide in­vest­ment in­cen­tives to com­pa­nies to cre­ate jobs here at home. Build a mod­ern smart grid that can de­liver ef­fi­ciency and clean en­ergy.”

5. Not Just Jobs— Good Jobs“Amer­i­can work­ers want good Amer­i­can jobs, not poverty level wages with­out ben­e­fits that make it im­pos­si­ble to sup­port a fam­ily or save for the fu­ture. We can start by mak­ing sure that mid­dle-class Amer­i­cans are free to or­ga­nize and have a voice and a seat at the table again. If cor­po­ra­tions can join to­gether to hire an army of lob­by­ists, work­ing Amer­i­cans must come to­gether and use their strength in num­bers to pro­tect the rights of mid­dle class Amer­i­cans. We must en­sure that busi­nesses obey our labor laws and re­ward those that cre­ate good pay­ing Amer­i­can jobs that pro­tect our rights to equal op­por­tu­nity and equal pay. Pro­grams like TANF ECF have been proven to put peo­ple to work. While, we work on build­ing these good jobs, we must en­sure the long-term un­em­ployed re­ceive the full as­sis­tance and ser­vices they need so they can con­tinue con­tribut­ing to the econ­omy.”

The su­per­com­mit­tee will, un­doubt­edly ex­plore, and po­ten­tially em­brace, a lot of bad ideas.

The Con­gres­sional Pro­gres­sive Cau­cus has come up with the right re­sponse to all of them: Amer­ica is not broke. But it does need to fix some bro­ken pri­or­i­ties.

“With the su­per­com­mit­tee, the Re­pub­li­cans have man­u­fac­tured yet an­other bud­get cri­sis,” says CPC Bud­get Task Force Chair Michael Honda, D-Cal­i­for­nia. “We can ‘go big’ and ad­dress our bud­get deficits by al­low­ing the un­paid-for Bush tax cuts to ex­pire and end­ing our un­paid-for wars on sched­ule. Any­one who says we need to cut ed­u­ca­tion, cut the so­cial safety net, cut So­cial Se­cu­rity, Med­ic­aid, Medicare or pro­vide more tax cuts to the rich, is push­ing a po­lit­i­cal agenda, not sound fis­cal pol­icy.”


This story orig­i­nally ap­peared in The Na­tion.
Copy­right © The Na­tion – dis­trib­uted by Agence Global.

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